A Tower Tour

The tower of Kings Norton is arguably what gives the church its awesome majesty. It is of course half the reason for building the church, to have a tower for Mr Fortrey’s bells.

The tower is, like the church, made from brick fronted by Ketton stone. It is also highly decorated, particularly the friezes dividing its four sections, yet it also seems simple and stark. The tower is true to the Gothic style of the church with the tall, clear windows giving a stunning effect.

At the base of the tower is the church’s only entrance. The doors are narrow and slender with small windows at the top and a unique entrance method. Unlike in most St John the Baptist churches you do not take a great steop down on entering, a feature not decided to be maintained by Mr Fortrey. The entrance vestibule is now probably very similar, if not still the same, as its original state, except for the more recent plaques commemorating the church’s restoration.

The small door in the corner leads up to the ringing chamber, about 15 steips up the worn, stone spiral staircase. The chamber is a large, spacious room with two high, clear glass windows looking out on to the beautiful, rural countryside surrounding Kings Norton. The walls are a pale cream colour, base plaster and are largely covered by written graffiti of many bell ringing methods dating back over 200 years. There are 8 ropes around 7 metres long. There is also a door way on the large gallery (or balcony) which has an excellent view of the church’s interior and formerly housed many records of Kings Norton’s past.

The clock room is further up the stairs, with small windows at regular intervals. The low room seems small due to the majority of it being taken up by the clock and carillon. Views from the small windows and teh church roof, accessed from here, are stunning with a great expanse of rolling hills. The clock and carillon were both made by Joseph Eayre of St Neots with the clock dated 1765.

The carillon takes the form of a large and very heavy barrel with small metal studs or pegs, placed so to operate levers. When the drum is rotated the levers activate hammers on the bells by means of wires and cranks in the same way as the clock. The carillon plays 9 tunes, changed by moving the drum slightly to the left or right, to a different set of pegs, therefore sounding the bells in a new order. There are 16 hammers in all, two for each bell, to, if needed, play the same notes quickly. The tunes which the carillon plays are unknown due to the disappearance of a brass plate showing their names.

At the time of installation, Kings Norton’s clock and carillon were the latest technology, far superior to average mechanisms of that period.

Above the clock room, the bells themselves are found. All hung at one level in a red metal frame, there is a high room with two sets of tall, narrow louvres on each wall.